Arthur Ashe: Richmond History Maker

Arthur Ashe – a professional tennis player, an activist, a Richmonder.

By Valentine Museum Staff
Arthur Ashe going for a forehand shot at the US Open. He is wearing a striped polo shirt and white shorts.
Arthur Ashe at the US Open, V.86.206.04, The Valentine

Ashe was born on July 10, 1943 and grew up in segregated Richmond where the start of his life as a professional athlete began.  He would practice on the tennis courts of Richmond’s largest blacks-only playground on Brookfield grounds.  Frustrated by having to travel far distances to play against white children in Richmond, he accepted an offer to play in St. Louis, where he could attend Sumner High School.

He was awarded a tennis scholarship from UCLA, where he chose to go to school.  After that, everything changed for him.  He was the first African American player to ever play for the United States Davis Cup team, he won the NCAA singles title at UCLA, won two Grand Slam singles titles, and was the first African American male to win the US Open title.

“Some folks call tennis a rich people’s sport or a white person’s game. I guess I started too early because I just thought it was something fun to do. Later, I discovered there was a lot of work to being good in tennis. You’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices and spend a lot of time if you really want to achieve with this sport, or in any sport, or in anything truly worthwhile.” –Arthur Ashe

However, when Ashe could not make it to the South African Open due to being denied a visa by the South African government because of his skin color, Ashe made sure he publicized South Africa’s apartheid policies and raised awareness of the oppressive form of government.  Ashe was able to gain support from many important individuals and organizations in the tennis world.  Some would say that Ashe’s stand helped create change in South Africa’s oppressive government.

 “My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity.” –Arthur Ashe

 Ashe went on being the only African American male to win titles at Wimbledon, the US Open, and Australian Open in his time.

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Authors Valentine Museum Staff
Work Title Arthur Ashe: Richmond History Maker
Published October 6, 2023
Updated May 24, 2024
Copyright © 2024 The Valentine Museum